The only smoke that hangs over Strupnic today rises from chimney pots and bonfires. The only tracked vehicles you see in fields and streets are Zendor 600 and 800 tractors. It’s hard to believe this village of cooing doves, dozing mutts, and carefree kids was, forty years ago, the place where the Podrabian invasion began to unravel.
(Operation Oryx was an open-to-all game of Combat Mission: Cold War set in 1981. The commenter-controlled Zendoran forces successfully ambushed a column of Podrabian vehicles bound for Zečin, the Zendoran capital. Each turn covered one minute of WeGo action. For a scenario outline and summaries of all thirty turns, click here).
The village has changed very little in the four decades since ‘The Ambush’. The flood waters have receded, of course.
And north of the Lesov’s place, there’s an imposing roadside war memorial. The monument’s T-62, one of seven KOed by Trajanov’s tank trashers on that historic day, sits atop a mound constructed with rubble from the old Bile Ribnica Dam.
A sign in the lay-by adjacent to the memorial encourages travellers to pay a visit to the nearby ‘Ambush Museum’. Funded and run by Viktor and Branko’s half-brother, Dalibor, who, keen to do his bit, was hurrying back from Australia when the battle occurred, this tourist attraction occupies what was once the agri merchant’s yard.
Outdoor exhibits include Tereza the T-72, a TOW Mutt, an M60A1, and one of the famous ‘Qatabi’ T-55s. Inside, visitors can read about the seventeen Zen heroes who fell on June 15th, inspect a selection of relevant firearms, see the pin-studded map Viktor used to brief Major Trajanov before the battle, and – assuming they’re willing to part with a shiny Euro – have a go on an Arma-based TOW simulator.
The museum claims to own the RPG-7 launcher used by the Lesovs to destroy two tanks during the fighting. I say ‘claims’ because there’s a RPG-7 launcher over the mantelpiece in The Traveller’s Rest hotel that also professes to be Milan Senior/Junior’s rocket dispenser!
While the provenance of some Ambush relics may be disputed, show me a historian who doesn’t believe the Zens won a…
….at Strupnic, and I’ll show you a charlatan shilling for the Podrabian regime.
Only five of the thirty enemy vehicles involved in the engagement, survived, and just one of this quintet (the PT-76B in the north) escaped entirely unscathed.
Examining the battlefield post-bellum and sans Fog of War, we find that the T-55 that settled Muttley’s hash, not only lost its commander, Oblomov, in the process, but also suffered serious track damage.
Interestingly, the other surviving T-55 also ended the battle without a TC and with compromised mobility. It seems likely these wounds were the result of 60mm mortar bomb detonations. Circa Turn 26, our Light Mortar Team pounded the Vostok Memorial area when the T-55 was in the vicinity.
Clicking on the T-80’s spanner icon reveals the precise results of the Patton’s eleventh-hour APDS shot – slight damage to optics, radio, smoke launchers, and track. In the circumstances, should the ‘veteran’ Pod tank commander have stood his ground? Possibly, but the fact that his steed was a demonstrator on loan from the Soviets, and not cleared for actual warfighting, may have influenced Shinkarev’s behaviour.
Stopping the column cost Trajanov two TOW Mutts, a T-72, a BRDM, and around a third of his men. Your GM felt these losses were, in the circumstances, relatively light, and a just reward for tactics that, on the whole, utilised terrain and weaponry, and balanced caution and aggression, superbly.
Could the Comment Commanders have achieved more with their off-map mortars? Would the Dragon team have been more useful north of the M2? Possibly, but CM battles aren’t chess games and unless you were there on June 15th, and experienced first-hand the uncertainty, the trepidation, and the weight of expectation, it’s hard to criticise with any conviction.
^ KOed Pod vehicles on or close to the M2. Labels indicate the turn the vehicle was destroyed and the destroyer (A = Alpha, B = Bravo, D = Droopy, L = Lesovs, M = Muttley, P = APC, T = Tereza)
Gong time! This year’s golden skull-and-crossbones – the medal for the Most Destructive Friendly Unit – has to go to TOW Team ‘Droopy’. They had to wait twelve turns to bag their first AFV but once they’d started slaying they couldn’t stop. Dispatched to the map’s north-western corner by a bold/visionary Comment Commander, they were well-placed to deal with targets travelling down the M2, the unexpected PT-76B attack, and enemy vehicles seeking cover behind the embankment. By the time the clock froze for the final time, their kill tally consisted of three T-62s, two PT-76Bs, one BMP-1, and eleven Pod grunts/crewmen.
Tereza the T-72A earns the silver skull-and-crossbones for neutralising, during an intense seven minute spree (turn 16 to 23), one T-62, one T-55, a Shilka, three Ural trucks, and seven dismounts. But for some fancy marksmanship by one of the New Farm riflemen, this total would almost certainly have been larger. Obviously, Scooby warrants a mention in the footnotes for this award. Without a willing, thoughtfully waypointed taxi, Viktor, Simona, and Georgi would never have reached their mount.
Deciding which of our combatants should get the Cross of King Petar – Zendora’s highest award for gallantry – wasn’t easy. Our three recon teams did sterling work in the centre of the village, and paid a very high price for their efforts (A third of the Zen casualties were scouts).
Inevitably their combined kills tally (16 x infantry, 1 x MT-LB, 1 x BMP-1) doesn’t fully reflect their contribution as trailblazers, intel gatherers, and side-thorns.
Alpha, Bravo and Charlie all made my CoKP shortlist but ultimately lost out to the Lesovs, the father and son team whose inexperience, health issues (Milan Snr), and inauspicious starting position didn’t prevent them causing havoc in some seriously dangerous areas of the battlefield.
Lesov Senior was mortally wounded tackling T-62s, his son died taking on a T-80. Between them they accounted for a PT-76B, a T-62, a truck, and seven AK clutchers before passing posthumously into national folklore.
Unsurprisingly, the Pods were keen to forget the debacle at Strupnic. It’s said Trajanov’s opposite number ended up toiling in a stibnite mine, and the only PA unit decorated for its actions that day was the RPG team that KOed Viktor’s tank.
Time for the final apposite 1981 tune. Medals will be pinned to proud chests to the strains of…